The number of people who applied for unemployment benefits dropped last week. Specifically, the unadjusted new jobless claims totaled 786,942 in the week ending September 26, a decrease of nearly 5% from the previous week. Meanwhile, the number of people who continue to receive unemployment checks declined by 8%, below 12 million. However, there is a caveat. California isn’t processing claims for two weeks to reduce its backlog and install fraud prevention technology. This means that there will likely be significant swings in initial claims for both California and nationwide unrelated to any changes in economic conditions.
In the meantime, employment continued to increase in September with 661,000 new jobs, and the unemployment rate falling below 8%. Compared to April, the unemployment rate has fallen nearly 7 percentage points in the last 5 months. Based on the data, the economy has done better than many expected in the spring.
The National Association of REALTORS® closely monitors the weekly claims for unemployment insurance provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since this data is also released for each state, we track the jobless claims activity at the state level. This state-level data report is a very important indicator to watch at economic turning points because it provides detail on what’s happening week by week, rather than each month or quarter.
Thirty-five states reported a decrease in new claims for the week ending September 26. Taking a closer look at the percentage change of the last week’s new claims with the new claims of the previous week, South Dakota (-58%) had the largest drop in layoffs followed by Oregon (-34%) and Florida (-25%). In contrast, unadjusted advance claims increased in Maryland, North Dakota, and Arizona. Particularly, compared to the previous week, initial claims increased by 49% in Maryland; 17% in North Dakota; 15% in Arizona.
Moreover, the current release provides information about people filing new and total Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). Among 49 states, 12 million people received benefits in the week ending September 12 using the federal government’s Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. Nearly 317,500 more people claimed to receive PUA benefits compared to a week earlier. California, Kansas, and Hawaii had the most people receiving PUA benefits. Specifically, 19% of the labor force in California received PUA benefits in the week ending September 12 followed by Kansas (17%) and Hawaii (16%).
The map below shows you the percentage change of layoffs for each state. Click on a state to see how many layoffs occurred every week within the last year.